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Heidrick & Struggles Turns to Visa for New Legal Boss Heaton (1)

Nov. 15, 2021, 4:33 PMUpdated: Nov. 15, 2021, 9:27 PM

Recruitment and consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. has named former Visa Inc. lawyer Tracey Heaton as its new chief legal officer.

Heaton was most recently chief corporate counsel for Visa. She succeeds Chicago-based Heidrick’s former legal chief Kamau Coar, who resigned in June. At Heidrick, she said she expects to work on technological innovations and M&A matters.

“As we continue to expand our suite of future-focused offerings and innovative, tech-driven capabilities, Tracey’s proven global experience across commercial, corporate and digital payments technology arenas will be incredibly valuable to our ongoing growth and success,” said Heidrick’s president and CEO Krishnan Rajagopalan in a Monday statement.

Heidrick was founded in 1953 and was the first search firm retained by the British government, according to the company’s website. The firm has recently worked with other recruiters and companies to increase diversity in corporate boardrooms. A recent study by Heidrick found that Black directors on Fortune 500 boards nearly tripled in 2020 compared to other years.

“What I loved right from the get go was their mission of helping their clients change the world one leadership team at a time,” including on topics like diversity and inclusion and ESG, Heaton told Bloomberg Law.

Before her five years with Visa, Heaton was deputy general counsel of the IntercontinentalExchange Inc. and NYSE Euronext, which merged in 2013.

She has also worked for United Technologies and law firms Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy and Dechert LLP. Heaton is a current advisory board member for the University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s Center for International Legal Education.

Before resigning due to personal reasons, Coar was responsible for Heidrick’s legal team—which currently has ten law professionals—and the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Coar received around $811,500 in total compensation last year, including $454,000 in cash, according to company filings. After his resignation, Coar received $87,500 in severance pay.

“Heidrick & Struggles is in the midst of an exciting transformation journey as it seeks to grow the scale and impact of its search, leadership advisory and on-demand talent businesses, and I am excited to join the firm at such a pivotal time,” Heaton said in the statement.

(Added comments and information from Heaton throughout. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at